Though far from being a new problem, a recent survey has indicated that the swelling number of applicants triggered by the Covid pandemic is leaving the vast majority of unsuccessful job seekers in the dark as to why they fail to secure employment.

Employers are not legally required to give candidates feedback. In fact, many choose to provide a minimum of information on why a candidate is not hired for a job for fear it could be misconstrued to demonstrate discrimination in the hiring process.

It also takes time and effort to provide useful feedback, which is another reason why so few employers do it. Even prior to the health crisis, research by graduate recruitment app Debut found that four out of five applicants had never received any constructive guidance after attending a face-to-face interview.

Now a fresh survey from Arctic Shores, a provider of hiring technology based in Manchester and London, has shed further light on the state of the hiring process during the pandemic. Nearly half of the employers questioned – 48 per cent – said they were receiving more applications since the onset of Covid-19, with only 7% managing to provide feedback to all candidates.

According to HR consulting firm Robert Half, the main sectors currently driving demand for talent in the UK are manufacturing, logistics, pharmaceuticals, financial services and IT. Candidates with data-led and digital skills are among the most desirable across all industries, while the UK’s departure from the European Union is expected to boost the need for finance analysts, supply chain managers and logistics administrators.

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Matt Weston, managing director of Robert Half UK, said the strains on recruiters in companies which are hiring look unlikely to ease.

“Many employers are witnessing a steady increase in application volumes,” he said. “While some candidates are job searching after being made redundant, others are looking for their next challenge and a change for the new year.

“However, the shift from the pre-pandemic candidate-driven market to an employer-driven one can present a challenging recruitment environment for hiring managers and may be difficult to navigate.”

Gordon Brown, founder of Glasgow-based technical recruitment agency Nine Twenty, said it is particularly difficult to provide meaningful feedback to candidates who are unqualified for the job. While there has been some increase in Scotland’s historically restricted tech talent pool, he’s also seen a rise in applications that are not relevant to the vacancy.

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“The first few months of last year were quite slow,” Mr Brown said. “A lot of [IT] companies just wanted to take stock and get a grip on what was going on.

“But then things started ramping up in the summer. Projects that had been delayed started coming back on stream and hiring picked up again. When you talk about the volume of applications, we have definitely seen an increase.”

Robert Newry, chief executive and co-founder of Arctic Shores, said he has heard reports from some employers of application levels doubling or even trebling. According to one client, “every role is now a volume role”.

Mr Newry, who has personally mentored four graduates in the past six months, said the lack of feedback leaves job seekers wondering whether they are pursuing the correct opportunities. With no information on where things might be going wrong, they cast their net further away from their area of “intrinsic interest” in desperation of landing any sort of employment.

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“That takes them into areas where they are less likely to succeed,” he said. “Their confidence drops and it just becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Technology can provide solutions, Mr Newry said, but not if it simply replicates an ineffective analogue process. Interestingly, the Arctic Shores survey found that remote interviewing techniques have only provided better hiring outcomes for 33% of companies, with 18% saying it is worse than before and 45% reporting no change.

“The focus has been almost entirely on the efficiency of processing the volume to the detriment of candidate experience and opportunity for all,” he said. “The requirement for 2021 will be to digitise the recruitment process so it’s more inclusive and respectful of candidates.”